Leveraging Resources for City Investment
Municipal officials across the country recognize the value of afterschool programming in providing a safe space for children to learn and grow. It provides peace of mind to parents during the non-school hours as well. High-quality afterschool programs can also foster the development of critical academic and social skills. City involvement in supporting this rich community asset is critical.
Whether in city government, the corporate sector, small business or nonprofit community, all sectors are learning how to make progress with fewer resources. However, small cities and rural communities have always functioned in this environment. Small cities recognize that every individual, business and organization can be an asset, and are constantly looking for ways to leverage these assets. This resourcefulness and asset-based approach allows small cities to accomplish a lot with very few resources.
Municipal Investment in Afterschool
Cities continue to see the value in afterschool programming. A recent study from FHI 360 that surveyed 129 cities with populations over 100,000 found a link between mayoral commitment and city investment. The higher level of commitment, the greater the likelihood that the city will invest financial resources, the study found. Municipal financial support, however, is not unique to larger cities.
In the cities of Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park, Minn., their joint powers agreement states that each city contribute $50,000 annually to support the Brooklyn Bridge Alliance for Youth, which oversees the joint powers agreement. Other partners contribute a smaller dollar amount, for a total of $175,000. The remainder of the Alliance’s budget is supplemented through grant funding. In addition to financial support, the joint powers agreement created a common vision for key stakeholders: they have a responsibility to ensure the success of all youth in their communities.
The purpose of the Alliance is to “cooperatively support positive youth development in afterschool opportunities for all youth in Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park, ensuring the success of all youth by challenging the conditions that diminish their hope by connecting them to trusted adults who are vested in their healthy development and mastery of essential skills.”
Another example of city investment is Juneau, Alaska, where the city council has funded efforts to provide afterschool programming targeted to middle school students. The closure of the local Boys and Girls Club created a large gap in middle school afterschool services. The city responded by contributing $50,000 to establish new middle school afterschool programming. This was the only new funding stream across the entire city’s budget. The rest of the programming costs are supplemented by other fundraising efforts.
Similarly, in Hammond, La. , Mayor Mayson Foster proposed $50,000 in the 2015 fiscal year general fund to support the Hammond Youth Education Alliance, which works to ensure all young people have access to high-quality afterschool and summer learning opportunities. This is the first time the city is investing in the development of an afterschool site.
In early 2014, a 15-mill property tax was passed to continue the city’s overall education reform initiative. The tax is expected to generate $3.5 million dollars, which will also be used to support Hammond’s International Baccalaureate program, the Montessori public school and to develop a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) program for seventh and eighth graders. The millage was a tax renewal bill that had previously failed, but Councilman Lemar Marshall — the councilman who has championed afterschool efforts in Hammond — said that expanded offerings, such as afterschool initiatives, was part of the bill’s success.
Cities Partnering to Sustain Afterschool Programming
While financial support is important, it is just one way cities can support afterschool programs. For example, the city of Donaldsonville, La., has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Bright Futures Community Learning Center — the only afterschool program in the city — to provide in-kind support through facilities, maintenance and human resources. The program is based out of a city building, and the city provides maintenance and upkeep of the facility. The city also acts as a fiscal agent for the program. As a 21st CCLC recipient, an added benefit of the partnership is that the city can pay for financial costs upfront and receive reimbursement within 30 days. This fiscal role relieves considerable financial stress for Bright Futures CLC.
The type of municipal support for afterschool may vary, but one thing is clear. Municipal leaders recognize how critically important afterschool opportunities are to the vitality of their community. Cities across the country are stepping up and finding innovative and resourceful ways to support afterschool efforts in their community. This resourcefulness not only improves programming, it builds strong collaborative relationships that inevitably strengthen the sustainability of the program.